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Immigrants Become Naturalized Citizens in Hanover High Ceremony

  • Daria Trusova, of Hanover, N.H., takes the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance with about 40 others during a naturalization ceremony at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., on April, 12, 2018. Trusova is from Russia. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Nanda Nepal of Manchester, N.H., is photographed with Judge Landya McCafferty of the U.S. District Court in New Hampshire following a naturalization ceremony for Nepal and about 40 others at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., on April 12, 2018. From left are volunteer Bridget Howell, of the Holy Cross Family Learning Center, Nepal's son Prusutam Nepal, of Manchester, McCafferty, Nanda Nepal and his wife Bhakti Nepal. Abby Tourville, naturalization deputy clerk with the district court, takes the photo. Nepal is formerly from Bhutan. McCafferty was the keynote speaker during the ceremony. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hanover High School freshman Ava Barta, right, shows Ratna Rai, of Manchester, N.H., to his seat before the start of his naturalization ceremony at the school in Hanover, N.H., on April, 12, 2018. Rai is from Bhutan. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Yi Hsin, left, and Min Chun, of Etna, N.H., wait for the start of their naturalization ceremony at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., on April, 12, 2018. The couple is from Taiwan. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, April 13, 2018

Hanover — Standing in a cinder-block-lined hallway, Daria Trusova held a printed copy of The Star-Spangled Banner in her hand while a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official addressed the crowd.

“The back of that form is an immigration form,” said Joshua Egli, the official. “It’s the last immigration form you’ll ever have to fill out.”

Trusova, 28, moved to Hanover from Russia in 2015 to be with her husband, who became a citizen in 2013. She’s one of 39 immigrants who came to Hanover High School to participate in a naturalization ceremony on Thursday morning. They stood in a line, waiting for a man wearing glasses to check over their green card and paperwork one last time. As each person came to the front of the line, the man made a mark next to their name on a clipboard and directed them up a flight of stairs.

Trusova’s husband, Vladimir Chernov, is a math professor at Dartmouth College. All week, he’d been reminding her of the upcoming ceremony — for the last three nights, he had sung The Star-Spangled Banner to her from the page she now held in her hand.

She worked as a dishwasher before having Ilya, her 6-month-old son. To her, America is living up to its reputation as a land of plenty.

“In Russia, more people have many problems with money,” she said. “If you work and get an education, you can be a school teacher, but they are some of the poorest people.”

Each of the 39 soon-to-be citizens had completed a monthslong process of paperwork, including taking a 100-question civics test that asked about rights of citizenship, American history and the roles of various arms of the government.

Trusova said she had learned much of the material on the civics test while in school — in Russia.

“Children like American literature,” she said, noting that she had enjoyed Russian translations of satirist Mark Twain long before setting foot on American soil.

In keeping with the formality of the ceremony, many in the line wore nice clothes. Student volunteer escorts already had directed family members, also nicely dressed, to reserved seating sections in the auditorium at the top of the stairs. That included the husband and two adult daughters of Olga Fotinos — when they’d disappeared up the steps, the daughters were holding big bouquets of flowers to bestow on their mother at the end of the ceremony.

The family recently sold a pizzeria they’d owned in Exeter, N.H.

Fotinos, 60, who hails from Greece, said she’s been living in the United States since she was 21 years old, but the family business kept her from undertaking the task of becoming a citizen.

“I had so much work all these years, I had no time for that,” she said. “Now, after 39 years, it’s time.”

Seated near the front of the auditorium and waiting for the ceremony to begin, Henry Kahl, of Hanover, and Perrin Milliken, of Norwich, both seniors and members of the Hanover High student council, were ready to jump up when it came time for them to lead the crowd in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The student volunteers laughed and talked together, excited to see the event unfolding in their auditorium.

“It’s cool to have it here in our high school,” Milliken said. “I usually don’t think of us as being very diverse.”

“I walked some of them in here and got to talk to them,” Kahl said. “A lot of them have been here for a very long time. Some said they were nervous.”

Once the auditorium had been packed full of students, immigrants, family members and representatives of various legislative officials, school Principal Justin Campbell offered opening remarks from a podium set up on the auditorium stage.

“We’re very lucky to share this special moment in these people’s lives,” said Campbell, who then yielded the floor to Abby Tourville. Tourville, who helps staff the U.S. District Court in Concord, asked the crowd to treat the auditorium like a courtroom and be sure to turn off their phones and stay in their seats.

“All rise,” she said, as Judge Landya McCafferty entered the stage. The judge came out and looked out at the glaring lights.

“I can’t see you, but I’m hoping you can see me,” she said.

During the third quarter of 2017, more than 230,000 applications for citizenship were approved by the government, including 511 that were processed at the USCIS field office in Manchester. On average, about 680,000 new citizens are naturalized each year.

Each one, McCafferty told the crowd, has his or her own story.

“Some of you came here for economic opportunities. Others to avoid political or religious oppression. Whatever your reason now, you are all citizens of the United States,” McCafferty said. “We are all Americans. Together, we stand as one people, defined not by blood or race or tribe or wealth, but by the fact of citizenship.”

The recognition of economic opportunity rang true for Min Chun, 35, of Etna, and her husband, Yi Hsin, a theoretical and computational plasma physicist who is working as an assistant professor at Dartmouth College. They’re both from Taiwan.

“It’s much better for his research,” said Chun, an accountant for a private company who carried their paperwork in an accordion file sitting on her lap. “More resources, especially in his field.”

“We plan to stay,” Hsin said.

Chun and Hsin first came to the country five years ago; in 2017, they followed jobs to Etna, moving from the University of Maryland area.

They’re struck by the American culture — in their home country, a small island nation of 23 million people, there are nearly 1,700 people per square mile. In the United States, there are 85. Though the people here are spread more thinly, Chun said, they also are less homogenous than what she is used to.

“There’s a lack of diversity there,” she said. “Here, you can meet different people from lots of different countries.”

That was in keeping with sentiments expressed by McCafferty, who told the crowd that “we are a nation of immigrants. Our families came to America seeking a better life. Ninety-eight percent of American citizens came from or trace their ancestry from other countries.”

As part of the ceremony, a deputy clerk of the court led the new Americans in the recitation of an oath in which they renounced “all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.”

They pledged to bear arms on behalf of the United States government, and to perform noncombatant military services, if required by law.

Then, just before they received certificates of citizenship in clear plastic sleeves, people were directed to refer to small programs printed with the first verse of the national anthem. Trusova held her own worn copy. Her husband watched from a seat in the family section, holding little Ilya in his arms.

New and lifelong citizens — immigrants, students, teachers and the courtroom staff — stood, shoulder to shoulder, and opened their mouths to sing.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.